Friday, August 31, 2012


When I started martial arts training, I read Black Belt. Two of the main karate fighters of the day featured were Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis. In those no-contact days, the winners of each weight division faced off at the end for the grand championship. Norris was a middleweight, Lewis, a heavyweight, and more often than not, Chuck won. He was faster and could circle. Lewis, who had a major sidekick, was straight in and out, and if you didn't get out of his way, he was strong enough to blow right through your block.

Lewis learned the sidekick he used from Gordon Doversola at Okinawa-te.

When I got to L.A. in 1967, Lewis didn't train regularly with Doversola, but he would drop by now and then. He was a big, muscular guy, one of only a few serious karate guys who trained with weights.

Time passed, worlds moved ...

Lewis died today, a brain tumor. He was 68.

As I was reading about this, I came across a reference to Shihan Doversola. It has been a few years since I checked up on him, and the reference took me by surprise: Seems that he had a stroke almost two years ago, was in a coma for much of a year, and died in April, 2011.

Well, shit. 

Not that I could have done anything about it, but I feel remiss in not noticing his passing. 
He was 77.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republican National Convention

Governor Smoke and Representative Mirrors, with a little doddering Clint Eastwood on the side ...

Wasn't for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I couldn't stand to watch any of it. Unlimited magazine capacity? No abortion even if that will kill the mother? 

Geez Louise. 

Wonder how they will goose the Democrats? Good thing about Comedy Central, they skewer everybody ..


My sister and my niece sent me this picture of my parent's yard in the aftermath of the hurricane. One of the pines snapped off just above the ground and fell on the neighbor's shop. Doesn't look like it did too much damage. The swing set is tied to the tree, I dunno if that was to keep it from blowing away, or to bolster the tree when it cracked.

There were a lot more trees there when I was growing up, but every hurricane seems to take another one or two ...

Power is back on–they have a generator they go to for fans and the TVs and lights when the juice goes out, and it always does. My sister and brother-in-law are there, along with one of my parents' caregivers. Everybody is doing fine. 

Welcome to hurricane country ...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gimme a Ticket for a Hurricane ...

Isaac is still a tropical storm churning up toward landfall in the U.S., last time I looked, and it might make it back to a Category One hurricane by the time it does get there.

And the news media turns into Chicken Little: "The sky is falling and we must tell the King!"


If you live in Boise or Butte or New York City, you might not realize that for folks on the Gulf Coast, a Category One isn't something that sends you screeching to the market to buy all the toilet paper there. It's rainy and windy but, no big deal. 

A Category Two is a little more serious, but still, we aren't talking Camille.

The regular afternoon thunderstorms in Louisiana sometimes drop three or four inches of rain in an hour and gust to fifty or sixty mph and everybody goes on about their business. A One throttles back to a tropical storm soon as it makes landfall. It rains a lot. The wind blows some. You might have to turn your windshield wipers on high. Nobody gets too excited about it. 

Of course, TV news likes to issue STORM ALERT! if a fly sneezes. Two snowflakes fall and there are some parts of the country that go absolutely bugfuck as they prepare for The End Times. 

And if there's no story there? Why, they can surely try to make one ...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Expendables II

Okay, so I didn't like the first one. Didn't work for me on a lot of levels. And the second one isn't what you'd call the acme of the moviemaker's art, either, more fluff than a Chinese laundry, plot's got more holes than a colander factory, and the credit crawl numbers in the thousands, most of them Bulgarians, Indians, and Chinese, but ...

It had its moments.

Stallone apparently had enough sense this time to skip any attempt reality and make it into a full-out nostalgic cartoon, and on that level, I have to admit I had some fun.

Completely silly, and pretty much on a par with Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner–beep, beep!–but there you go.

Trampoline-fu fight scenes, a big part of the budget must have gone for artificial blood, and a whole lot of shit gets blowed up real good. Nobody on the other side can shoot worth a damn, and nobody on the old guys' side can miss. 

Some funny lines: Listen early for when Bruce Willis talks about "Male-pattern badness ..."

Chuck Norris playing with the Norris-is-so-bad stuff, talking about the cobra that bit him.

Schwarzenegger and Willis riffing on famous lines from their movies at each other. It's no spoiler to reveal "Ah'll be back!" and "Yippie ki yay!" but there's some fun with those. 

Even making fun of Couture's cauliflower ear at one point.

Van Damme chews enough scenery to choke a pod of toothed whales. 

Probably most of the people who go to see this are going to be old enough to remember the action movies these guys were in, and the in-jokes are why you go. 

They are all here: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Lundgren, Li, with Statham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and a young sniper and kick-ass Chinese girl, neither of whom add much. 

They are all in pretty good shape to look at, though interestingly enough, Ahnahl appears to be less so than the others. 

Popcorn and a drink full of sugar, and have at it ...

With Two Cats in the Yard

"Our House," written by Graham Nash for Joni Mitchell when the two of them were living together in Laurel Canyon in the late 1960's. Performed here by Crosby, Stills & Nash–Neil Young isn't on this version, despite what the title says. 

Simple, melodic, and sweet, a man singing to his woman, telling her what a wonder she is:

Life used to be so hard / now everything is easy 'cause of you ...

That's how it's supposed to be, isn't it?

They didn't stay together. Love can be ephemeral, but at least this song came out of it and touched a lot of people. 

So many great songs come out of failed relationships ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Big News on the eBook Front has finally cranked up in India. Folks there will be able to buy ebooks online; stores will carry Kindles; and they can pay in rupees.

I don't know how well my stuff will go over where the Raj once held sway, but it is a potentially-huge market, given there are more people who speak (and read) English in India than anywhere except the U.S.

Stay tuned ...

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Way or the Wrong Way

There is something in the human psyche, certainly in the American psyche, that hates to see somebody satisfied with his or her lot. It's not quite Mencken's quote–"Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."—but it does seem to come from that same part of the mind: Why would you be doing things your way when you could be doing them my way? Since, you know, my way has to be better?

And how can you say you are happy and satisfied with your life? What's wrong with you?

At its best, this is an attempt to share something folks have found they think is of great value, ranging from religion, to diet and exercise, to politics, to beer. Lookit, lookit, here! I've found something wonderful! Check it out! It will make you happy, smarter, it will whiten your teeth! Come and see!

Done it myself. It's hard to suppress. You want to share it, help your friends out. You have good intentions, really, you do. 

You've bumped into this, haven't you? Or even been guilty of it yourself? I have, both counts.

I'm about to be guilty of it again, right here, right now ...

So, a couple of Joseph Smith's boys or the Jehovah's Witnesses knock on your door, or your dotty old Aunt Sally tries to fix you up with the Pastor's spinster daughter. Still good intentions, albeit a tad obnoxious because of what it implies:

That you need help. That they can provide it.

When the two nice young men from Orem in white shirts and ties knock on the front door and want to tell me about the plates of gold and the Lost Tribe of Israel and Jesus in the New World? Excuse me, but I'm as old as your grandfather, you really think I haven't come up with some way of looking at the world by now that I need lessons from an eighteen-year-old kid whose entire life experience is UtahListen, children, I appreciate your zeal, but I have my own beliefs and I'm happy with them. You want a glass of water or something?

Below that, it can devolve into mean-sprited stuff, the isms–racism, sexism, nationalism. The notion that if somebody doesn't agree with what they believe, they are so wrong they don't deserve full human status. You believe that? You are a heretic! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail!

Vote? You want to vote? But look at you! You aren't one of us! 

A few years back, a silat guy I knew slightly went charging off on the my-way-is-better-than-your-way rant. I should, he said, come to his house and learn the Real Deal™. Because his was the  One True Path™ and what I had, while okay, was the art of a lesser teacher, nice guy, but really ...

Really? I don't think so, so I'll stay here, thank you. Glad you like what you found.

But–but–you don't understand! Why would you do that? Stay with something when there might be something better? 

Well, first, because I think you are basically full of shit and it isn't better. Second, because even if it is filet mignon, I'm happy with sirloin here, like the taste better, and I'm getting what I need to sate my hunger. How much better can it really be?

But no: Got to be higher, faster, stronger. 

I have a friend who, every so often, finds a new and improved way to work out, and he shifts from what he was doing, which was working perfectly fine, into the new and improved method. You should try it, he says. It's really good. Better than what you are doing.

Probably. But if I'm not in as good a shape as I might be, it's not because I don't have the tools to get there, I do, and they work just fine. It could be because I'm too lazy to use them. Tossing them and getting a new set won't fix that. Or it could be because I don't want to go there.

Because, you know, I'm happy here ...

See, at some point, you might come to realize that you are high enough, fast enough, and strong enough to do what you need to do. And elect to maintain rather than increase. You balance what you need, what you want, and what is possible. And you have to be realistic about the last. What is fit for an eighty-year-old desk jockey is not the same as what is fit for a twenty-five-year-old Olympic sprinter, now, is it? If I tried to train like the sprinter, it would kill me. I can probably keep up with the old desk jockey most of the time.

For those of you who are going to shake your heads and blather on about how the only limits you have are mental! that age doesn't matter! that what you can do is unbound and unfettered!? Try this: Jump off a tall roof and try to fly by flapping your arms up and down real fast. Let me know how that works for you–if you recover. 'Cause my money is on gravity and the biomechanics of an unaided human body = Wile E. Coyote augering into the hard pan way down there below the cliff, waaahoohoohoohoooo!

There might not be limits, but my ability and yours to get there from here needs more than positive thinking. 

Jump, Steve, jump! Fly, Steve, fly!

Can I get a bomb-falling whistle and ka-boom! SFX here?

If you can fly this way? By all means talk to me, I'll listen. A working demonstration tops talk all to hell and gone. 

Had a well-known and highly-regarded PE teacher tell me once that there was no such thing as over-training, only under-recovering. Really? You can make that rope longer by cutting a piece off one end and tying it to the other end? 

We might say we don't believe in it, but a lot of us want magic. The magic pill, the magic bullet, the secrets of the Illuminati. Folks are always looking for a better path. Nothing wrong with being a seeker, with wanting to better yourself, learn more, achieve something. Life is about learning lessons and growing. However, that doesn't always mean you have to jump from this lane to that lane like some teenage driver in his daddy's BMW cutting through traffic as you wend your way up the mountain, hoping the new route will be faster, smoother, or more interesting. You can do that if you want, but that's not how I drive.

Sometimes, like the tortoise, you can achieve a lot by moving along slow, but steady, on a path that works for you. In a short race, yep, my money is on the hare. For a long race? Not so much. And if you are happy on your trip? Doesn't mean you are wrong because somebody else says so. They don't know you like you know you. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cover Flat

Got the cover flat for the next book, courtesy of my editor at Ace, Ginjer. On sale 24 December, for those of you–and you know who you are–who hold off on your Christmas shopping until the last minute ...


Summer generally arrives here around the Fourth of July, and if we are going to have a hot stretch, it is usually in mid-to-late August. Didn't happen last year, summer just kind of waved at us as it went by.

She stopped to visit this year. We have had a couple days this week where the temperature hit a hundred F. and it looks like it'll cool off to maybe 97 or 98º here today ...

We can't complain about the heat, compared to the rest of the country which has been broiling; the Mississippi River shut down, crops shriveled, dried-up lake beds crazed all over the midwest. 

For years I had a window unit AC in the garage that I'd haul out and install in my office if the stretch of heat was going to last more than three or four days. That was because above ninety or so, my computer would start to babble at me. Most years it stayed in the garage. Eventually, I gave it to my daughter, whose place gets much hotter than mine.

Most of the houses up here don't have AC installed because it's not worth it for the few days of real heat we get each year. Open the doors and windows, crank up the fans, sleep on top the covers.

However, if you plan to exercise in the out-of-doors, you need to keep a few things in mind when the thermometer is up above body temperature, else you will court heat exhaustion or worse.

1. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
2. Take frequent breaks. If you start feeling woozy or really hot, sit down and cool off. 
3. Drink a lot of water. (If you are going to be at it more than a couple of hours, you might add in something to replenish electrolytes, ala Gatorade or somesuch.)

Our most recent silat class, we were out in the yard, since our host's garage was full of appliances awaiting installation in his getting-redone-kitchen. Probably that'll get finished around, oh, Christmas. Here's a redundant term for you: Lying home contractor ...

The yard is grassy and by seven o'clock, in full shade. Still, when it is 101º F., it is easy to overdue it, and we were focused on leg work, which is ever so much fun; even on a cool day, the blood gets pumping pretty good.

Couple guys got pretty red and needed to use the garden hose. All of us got really sweaty. 
Nobody fell over, but there is always that danger, especially when it's a bunch of martial artists who don't want to be the guy who sissies out.

The tendency in such situation is to keep going: Hey, I ain't your wilting pansy here! 

This keep-going, shrug-it-off, man-up attitude can lead to man-down, so you have to know your limits. Macho can kill you: Dude worked himself into heatstroke and died. A real man, you know? Got to admire that ...

No, you don't. You shake your head at how stupid it is to die trying to show how tough you are. 

Know the signs of impending trouble: dizziness, exhaustion, nausea, cramps? Sit down and cool off–the hose, an ice pack, the upturned water bottle over the head. If you ignore the symptoms and keep going, heatstroke can follow, and if you stop sweating, a seizure or death is right there waiting. Don't be stupid. Listen to your body. 

To see a quick and unscientific measure of how much sweating goes on during a vigorous workout in these conditions? I had a two-liter bottle of club soda going, and by the end of class, had less than a cupful of it left. And I didn't need to pee. The soaked shirt and shorts were testimony to where the liquid went. And the top on the convertible was down on the way home–at nine p.m., it was still 84º F. all the way ...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Public Service Video

The Sting

When we got our RV–and never having owned one before–we discovered a raft of things we didn't know, including sewage disposal. 

Not to get too technical, but there are two waste tanks under the camper: One holds gray water, the other black water. I don't expect I have to explain that any further.

You roll along and these tanks fill, and–this is important–before they get full, you hook up a big hose to an outside valve and drain them into an RV septic tank, to be found at many campsites and some rest stops. Dumping your tanks is always in the back of your mind. 

As part of the black water lesson, we were told to buy a special kind of toilet paper made for boats and campers and all, which would dissolve and thus avoid plugging up the system.

Which we did not want, to be watching in horror as the toilet or shower backed up into the vehicle. 

So we bought a couple of cases of the special TP and went on our way.

It was spendy, spendy stuff. Four rolls of  retail? Eight bucks. But we didn't use much and it lasted a long time.

And as such things do, we ran out of it recently. I got online to find the best price and came across this article, which basically says the whole thing is a scam. That if you don't believe it, take a big jar, drop a couple sheets of your house arsewipe into it, let it sit for a bit, then cap and shake the jar.

Some brands won't break up but chances are the Kirkland double-ply stuff you buy at Costco for a buck a roll in the Carload Size will work just fine, the article says.

And I am here to tell you, it does ...

Gun Stats: Pistol-Packin' People

Carrying a concealed handgun is allowed in most of the states, if you meet the qualifications. (Not in Illinois or D.C., and severe restrictions in Maryland, New Jersey, and Hawaii.)  

Here, some numbers–valid permits, as of 2011:

1. Florida -- 887,000;
2. Pennsylvania -- 786,000;
3. Georgia -- 600,000;
4. Texas -- 519,000;
5. Indiana -- 406,000;
6. Washington -- 351,000;
7. Utah -- 347,000;
8. Tennessee -- 341,000;
9. Michigan -- 296,000;
10. Virginia -- 279,000.

Interestingly, California, the most populous state, issued about 35,000 concealed handgun licenses at last count. California is a "may issue," state, and most of the top ten are "must issue," meaning that the hoops you have to jump through are more in CA. Pretty much, you have to show necessity, have a clean record, and wait for a while as all the wheel slowly grind. Most of those licenses go to rich and famous, a few professional personal protection folks, people who have gotten serious death threats or who carry major monies or gems. 

Population-wise, more of a percentage of people in Georgia go strapped than elsewhere, about 11%. Devil goes down to Georgia, he better watch who he messes with ...

Port Townsend - Road Rage

Had a great few days in the camper at Port Townsend. As we hiked around Fort Worden, we spotted Alexander's Castle. The short story is, the British Consulate built the place for himself and his bride, but when he went home to fetch her, she'd married somebody else.


He didn't live there on his own for long.

On the way home, we were on Hwy. 101 skirting the Hood Canal, which is actually just a narrowing-extension of Puget Sound, and in no way canal-like. A curvy, two-lane road, and as we approached a narrow bridge in a no-passing double-yellow line zone, traffic on-coming, and doing the speed limit of 55 mph, some loon in a VW Jetta passed us.

Two seconds slower, we would have been dodging shrapnel and wounded vehicles, and if you know the three-second rule when following somebody, you know how close that was.

I uttered an expletive or three. So did my wife.

If you've never felt road rage, let me explain how it goes: I wanted to catch the idiot in the VW, who was probably high or stupid or both, cut him off, remove him from his vehicle via the driver's side window, and then whack him against the ground like the Hulk did Loki.

I mean, I really did. 

If you want to jump off a bridge or eat an overdose or shoot yourself, that's your right. But you don't get to take anybody with you, especially me and my family. 

I didn't chase the guy down. Aside from that being hard to do in an RV on a curvy road, that would have been illegal, and I am a good citizen these days. Still, it was one of those adrenaline-fueled moments I could have done without, thank you ...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison

The writer Harry Harrison has left the building. I posted about him awhile back, and I think that was a fitting obituary. He was 87. Adios, Harry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

In Memory Yet Green

Thirty years ago, we lived in Port Townsend, a scenic little town in Washington state. On Puget Sound, PT was a former gateway ship port to Seattle, it looked kind of like San Francisco, circa 1890, two and three-story Victorian houses on hills rising from the water.

My wife worked for a big paper company, running a timber division, and we found a nice  house on a hill with an upstairs bedroom that became my office, looked right at the Sound. It was postcard country in the Olympic rain shadow.
In the off season, about six thousand people lived there. In the summer, the tourists arrived, and the temporary population trebled and some, hotels, bed and breakfast places, campgrounds all filled up.

If you saw the movie An Officer and a Gentleman? It was filmed there.

It was an arty town, lot of old hippies, but also a lot of blue collar millworkers, and they didn't always get along.

The schools were not the best, even though Frank Herbert was the judge for the science fair, and we came to realize we wanted our children in a better situation, so we moved back to Oregon.

We had fond memories of the place, though. I sold my second and third books while living there, and that was where a dear friend introduced us to good champagne.

So, on a whim, we decided to hop in the camper and take a trip up to PT, and see how it had gotten along without us.

Quite well, actually.

Amazing how a few decades changes a place. We found our old house, and it had been upgraded; new this and that, nice garden out back, solar panels covering half the roof.

The streets were the same, but the businesses mostly had different names. My favorite bar was gone, now the lobby of a hotel; the breakfast place by the marina had turned into a maritime museum. Most of it looked so different I did not recognize it. Spotted the house that belonged to the writer Jack Cady, who got me a teaching job at UW in Seattle when he decided he didn't want to do it any more.

(Dojo Rat lives on one of the San Juan Islands, twixt PT and Canada, a ferry ride from town. I shot him an email, but didn't hear back, so we missed a chance to visit. Maybe next time ...)

We had dinner in a nice restaurant, listened to a classical guitarist playing a seven-stringer. Drank wine, port, ate duck and shrimp and cheesecake. A hard gig ...

But Thomas Wolfe was right: You can't go home again ...

Fun Video

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Went to the drugstore around the corner to pick up some shaving stuff and a Chapstick. As I was checking out, the clerk behind the counter, a woman I didn't recognize, asked, "So, do you play the guitar?"

For a moment there, I was stunned. Why would she ask that? Wow!

Then I realized the T-shirt I wore was from the Clapton concert, and had a big picture of a strat on the front. 

Duh ...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Musicians Get Too Much Respect

First World Problems

In third-world countries, people worry about things like food, clean water, and shelter. In a first-world country like the U.S., we worry about how soft our toilet paper is, and internet connection speeds. The numbers say that if you live in the U.S. and make twenty thousand a year you are living in poverty here, but better off than 99% of the rest of the world. So those of us in the middle class have gripes that are less-pressing than almost everybody else on the planet.

I am grateful to be here.

Howsoever, my hot tub, which has become a necessity for my body and soul, started whining. I shut it down and called my repair guy. I figured this would be his slack season, what with actual summer being here, but no, it turns out they also do swimming pools, and so business is booming and I had to wait a couple days.

Poor me ...

Turned out a seal had leaked, water ran down into the motor shaft, and a bearing was about to burn up. So the motor had to be replaced or rebuilt, and it cost about a car payment ...

Seems to be something needs to be fixed every other year, but that's part of the operating cost.

I am blessed that I had the money to get it done, and don't I know it ...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Writing Update

Yes, I have finished the book I owe Ace. 

Yes, I am working on Churl, the next Matador novel. Along with a couple of short story ideas that popped up, based loosely on The Three Little Pigs, and John Henry, respectively. I'll let you know where those can be found when I get them done and either sold or up as e-files.

And if anybody cares, while I was walking the dogs this afternoon, a bee flew out of nowhere and proceeded to sting me under the chin. I caught a glimpse of it as I swatted it away and first thought it was a yellow jacket, but when I got home, the stinger and venom sac was still stuck in me, so bee.

Just so you know ...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Been watching the Olympics, mostly in prime time. I can stream the rest on my computer and have caught some oddball stuff they won't put on TV, but since I enjoy gymnastics and beach volleyball, what the heck.

And NBC, bless their little hearts, ran the women's Marathon on Saturday in its entirely. They couldn't cut away to cover something else? Because except for the first five minutes and the finish, two and some hours later, not much changed. Shifting to any of the other sports for highlights would have been much more interesting during those stretches where the front runners on the London streets maintained their positions for miles.

(No. I didn't watch it all. TV was on in the b.g. as I did this and that, and far as I could tell, they didn't cut away to anything else. Maybe they did and I missed it.)

Never mind. We won't go down the NBC only showing us stuff where the Americans had a shot at gold. They always do that. And then they inanely ask the winners, "So, how it did it feel to win? What were you thinking, Usain, during your nine second race?"

Thinking? Um, run faster than everybody else and cross the line first?

Can we get a break here?

But the gymnasts? Ah. 

You know about Gabby Douglas, who won a couple golds. She fell off the beam, but not during her signature trick, which is a back flip with a full twist. Do you know how wide the balance beam is? 

Less than the width of my palm.

I couldn't walk from one end to the other without falling off. Throwing somersaults, or leaping three feet up to come back down and alight with not even a major bobble? That's passing astounding.

The Russian girl, Mustafina, who won bronze on floor ex? A thing of beauty and mind-numbing skill, even though the American Aly Raisman took the gold there. Ponor, the Romanian? Just as gorgeous a routine. These little girls flew like eagles.

Then there is Zonderland, the Dutch guy on the high bar. Never seen anything like what this guy does whipping around that steel bar. After he finished, the gymnast who had to follow him shook his head and grinned, and you could read his mind: Holy crap! How am I going to beat that?

Answer: You can't. Even if you are perfect, which you won't be–these judges don't give out perfect scores. Zonderland did the most fantastic bar routine anybody has ever seen, anywhere, any time, stuck the landing, and they deducted almost a full point.

Watch the video if you can get it. It is amazing. 

This is the guy you want doubling Batman ...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Space: The Final Frontier

Got to love these pictures. Now and then, some clever folks show up on Facebook.

I watched the end of the Curiosity landing, such that you could see. Lot of folks in blue shirts hugging each other, mostly.

Reminded me of the old days when we'd all get up early and glue our gazes to the TV to see the first American launched into space; then the first into orbit; various launches of satellites, and the moon landing. The Right Stuff days. 

I've seen some of the early capsules at various museums. Climbed in and sat in the "pilot's" chair. Not a place for somebody who had any fear of tight spaces, nor designed for people my height, either. Made my old Miata seem like a rock star's tour bus ...

Monday, August 06, 2012


In my younger days, I spent several summers working as a lifeguard/swimming instructor at a local pool in B.R. The place, the Ethyl Recreation Association, started out as a swim club, built by my father's employer for employees.  Eventually, it shifted to a country club, first known as the ERA Country Club, then Fairwood. There was a golf course out back, a big, stocked pond nearby, and after that, the place dwindled into obscurity. Building is still there, last time I looked, but the pool and golf course closed years ago.

Each year, there was a big celebration, usually in July, barbecue, games, fishing contests, a diving contest. One year, probably I'd have been about seventeen, I was working the chairs when the diving contest was going on. 

The chairs were just that, steel things with the seat five feet off the ground to give a good view of the pool, opposite sides of the deep end. Normally, there were two guards on, one off, and when it got really busy, the third guard would foot-patrol the shallow end for would-be drowners.

So the diving contest got rolling. One- and three-meter springboards, no platform, and the guards knew most of the divers because we were there ten hours a day. There was one guy we didn't know from before. Fit, maybe twenty-five, and his first couple of three-meter dives were simple but very clean. 

Pretty quick, it came down to him and one other diver, a former lifeguard we knew. 

The former guard's last dive was a front one-and-a-half in a pike, and he got a lot of height and lanced into the water without any splash. His to lose.

The guy we didn't know lined up, strode out, bounced, and threw what we thought was probably going to be a full gainer, since we had seen him do that in practice.

For those of you who don't know from diving, a gainer, sometimes called a flyaway, when I was young,  is a dive in which you jump off the board facing front, but throw a back somersault, and end up going into the water feet-first. (Half-gainer, you go in head-first.)

It is easy to do, but you have to be careful to leap out far enough or you can clock the back of your skull on the end of the board. 

So the mystery diver hit the end of the board and threw his back-flip, and we all knew he wasn't gonna clear the board. Not even close.

Oh, shit!

Guy across from me reacted instantly, he was off the chair and in the air for the water while I was still jumping from the chair to the apron. I wanted to see where the diver was going to fall and smash into the concrete, because I didn't think he was going to hit the water at all–

But he fooled us. He threw the back-flip, came down on the board feet-first, bounced again, did a one-and-a-half forward dive in a pike and into the pool. 

First time I had ever seen that, forty-five years ago, and it caught me completely by surprise. I expected him to leap out over the pool, and when he didn't, assumed he had screwed up and was going to kill himself. 

It was somewhat risky, but in retrospect, if you were a fair diver or gymnast, not all that much. I've seen it done a few times since. This guy obviously knew how to throw a somersault and land it on the board.  

He was also tickled that he caught us with it. 

Won him the contest. And started me down a long, long road whereupon I kept–and still keep–coming up against my expectation and getting it wrong ...

Another Nut Job ...

... mowed down people at a religious service, in this case Sikhs, whose crime was apparently that they were brown and not Christian. 

Bigotry is alive–and not well, but as sick as it ever was. 

Sikhs, by the by, are not Muslims, not that that matters. Crazy is crazy, and it will focus where it will. 

For those who are going to make the knife-to-a-gunfight joke–because Sikhs are, in a lot of places, allowed to carry knives, called kirpan, due to a religious exemption–probably better not to go there. 

Not all Sikhs carry knives, not even the men who are duty-bound to do so. Sometimes they have daggers that are real; sometimes they are peace-bonded, i.e., glued in place; or dulled. Many of them will carry a small pocket knife to satisfy the requirement to bear a kirpan. Some will have jewelry in the shape of a knife.

And a man with a gun standing off and shooting is not best dealt with using a short blade. Look at the girl and her kirpan above. Would you want to charge an assassin blasting away with his nine with that weapon in your hand? Or, any knife ... ?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Short People

I am not a natural short story writer. I did a lot of 'em when I started in the biz, because that was supposed to be the entry-route, back in the day. Do shorts, get them into the SF&F 'zines, build up a fan base, then have something to wave at an editor when ready to make the leap to novels. Not how it's done now, the short story market is leaner than the longer forms, and with ebooks? Even easier. (Plus, it turned out, the editor who bought my first novel had never read any of my short stuff anyhow, so it wasn't even necessary back in the day ...)

The biggest advantage to a short story is spent time. A novel, even if you are fast, usually takes a while. Months, in my case, though I once did a movie novelization in eighteen days, that's a cheat, 'cause I had the script. 

You invest a fair amount of energy in a novel, and if it drops dead in the starting gate, you worked a bunch of time for naught. That stings. (Wait. I should qualify that: You might not make any money from an unsold novel, but the process of writing it is worth something. You can learn a lot from the doing of it, regardless of whether it sells.)

A short story might take a couple days, and in my case more than a few times, a single session at the keyboard only a couple hours long. It doesn't fly? So what? It didn't cost much, and you could stick it away and maybe turn it into a novel someday. Or put it up on as an electronic version.

Short fiction is an exacting form. No room to mess around, you have to keep things tight and on-point and it's not a marathon but a sprint. Pacing is entirely different for two thousand words than it is for eighty thousand words. You can't cover much–plot, setting, character, pick one, that's about it.

Um. Now and then, I do get the urge to do a short story. Usually this is when I'm up against a deadline and don't have time to be screwing around. A lazy writer will find all kinds of excuses not to write–the lawn needs mowing, the house needs repair, and even writing something other than what you are supposed to be writing will do. Busman's holiday.

Sometimes, a story just pops out of the blue, as happened with the Roy the Demon series. Got the idea for one, did it, and then there came a whole bunch more ideas until I was done with Roy, at least for the nonce. 

Sometimes, the urge to write a short tale is externally-driven. Somebody sends me a note or calls me, they have a theme-anthology going, would I be interested in doing a piece for it? Sometimes the theme resonates. Conan Doyle meets H.P. Lovecraft? Sure. An urban magic thing? A theme line that starts, "There were rats in the souffle again ...?" Yeah, I can do that. 

Back when Dean and Kris were starting Pulphouse, they kinda shamed me into writing for them. No, no, I said, I don't have time for short stuff, I'm up to my eyeballs in books! 

C'mon, c'mon, you can take time off for a short story, Kris said. Guilted me into it, because writers are mostly lazy and always have more time than they admit to having, and she knew that, being a writer herself.

The result was that I wrote several wild-hair stories for Kris and Dean, at Pulphouse, then later when she was editing F&SF and because she prodded me into it, the best–for want of a better term–short stories I've written came to be. "Willie of the Jungle?" Still funny. The one about the two old hippies in the hot tub when reality breaks down? The guy whose house keeps changing back to the original color after he tries to paint it? Signs of a warped mind, sure, but fun ...

Um. Anyway, when I saw the Fiction River announcement on Facebook, I dropped them notes razzing them about getting back into editing, likening it to drug addiction. They razzed back, allowing as how they would hit me up for a story, and I waved them off. Don't have time for short stories, I said. Echoing a long-ago conversation.

The upshot of all this? I got an idea for a short story. Cranked up the WP, wrote a page or so last evening, and finished it this morning. If they ask? I got one. Another wild-hair piece, off-the-wall, but that's how it works around here ...